Kathmandu Top attractions – My trip to the City of Temples

Kathmandu Top attractions – My trip to the City of Temples

I frankly admit that the impression that I had formed of Kathmandu, until recently, was solely on the basis of the scenes of some of the Hindi movies (such as Hare Rama Hare Krishna, and more recently Baby) and Indiana Jones movies that I had seen. That was before we (husband and me) packed off for a short trip, leaving our cat in the safe custody of my daughter, who has come home on vacation. The destination obviously was Kathmandu – an offbeat place but well suited for a short summer getaway, especially for heritage lovers like me.

Arrival at Kathmandu

Taking a morning flight from Mumbai, we landed in Kathmandu by noon. It had rained in the morning, due to which the temperature had dropped and the weather had turned pleasant.  A huge poster of Deepika Padukone with an Oppo phone greeted us at the Tribhuvan International airport, where I was expecting to see posters of people in their traditional Nepali costumes. Repair work was being carried on at the airport escalators, which made me a little sceptical while using those.

The hotel Annapurna was not very far away and we reached the hotel in half an hour. While entering, we could see the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, which was at a five minutes walking distance from the hotel gate. We decided to go there after we had rested for some time.

NarayanHitiNepal
Narayan Hiti Palace

However, on reaching the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, we found that it was closed. So we kept walking towards the Thamel shopping area. I saw that most of the people on the road had covered their nose with a dust mask, which I later found is a common practice all over Kathmandu.

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Depression is treatable: Let’s Talk

Depression is treatable: Let’s Talk

For someone living with #depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment & recovery.  ~Tweet by WHO.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Depression, as an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. It is surprising to note that depression is the leading cause of ill – health and disability worldwide.

While there is a perception that feeble minded people suffer from depression and anxiety, it is not so. Depression is an illness that can happen to anybody, at any age, or in any place. People with depression normally have a loss of energy, change in appetite, anxiety, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Fortunately, depression can be prevented and treated.

Here, I present a guest post on this topic written by Sarbani Chowdhury, a Clinical Psychologist with the Indian Air Force. Read on what Sarbani says about depression…

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Have you been to the oldest museum in Mumbai yet?

Have you been to the oldest museum in Mumbai yet?

Real museums are places where time is transformed into space. ~ Orhan Pamuk

I have always enjoyed trips to museums. My penchant for a visit to museums goes back to my school days when our teachers would take us for trips to museums and gardens. In most of the cities that I have visited, I have gone to see the city museum to get a hang of the history and heritage of the place. I find the museums to be treasure houses of wealth where one gets to see and know how generations have lived and progressed through the ages, understand their way of life, and appreciate their art and culture. Furthermore, the entry to most of the museums is either free or highly subsidised.

The oldest museum in Mumbai

Last weekend, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the oldest museum in Mumbai. Needless to say, I was more than happy at the suggestion. Off we went to see Mumbai’s city museum, which was first opened to the public in 1872 as Victoria and Albert Museum. The readers of this blog may recall that some time back I had written about my visit to the  Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur

So, we got to know the museum was renamed in 1975 in honour of Dr Bhau Daji Lad, the first Indian Sheriff of Mumbai, a philanthropist, historian, physician, surgeon, who had played a key role in establishing the museum.

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Fifty plus and restless: How older Indians are working on unfulfilled dreams

Fifty plus and restless: How older Indians are working on unfulfilled dreams

Changing perception about turning fifty

 

Fifty seems to be the new thirty. Not very long ago, hitting the big ‘five-oh’ was considered a time to slow down in life; a time to take things easy and relax. That’s no longer the norm. With advances in medical care and growing self-awareness, perceptions are changing. People turning 50 are starting to invest in themselves and have no intention of applying the brakes; their goal is to #LiveNonstop.

The new generation of people turning 50 is all about staying active in a way that doesn’t just keep them busy, but also energized and strong. From taking up new languages, travelling to exotic destinations, taking up dance and yoga to hitting the gym or prepping for a marathon, its go, go go! Age, after all, is just a number and this concept seems truer now, more than ever before.

It seems like it’s a great time to hit 50 and I was extremely curious to know just how some of my friends, who are in their fifties have made changes to their lifestyle. So, I asked around and here’s what I found out –

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Wealth Ultima – A New Age ULIP

Wealth Ultima – A New Age ULIP

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

In life, as in chess, forethought wins. ~ Charles Buxton

The birth of a healthy daughter was a happy occasion for Rakesh Prasad and his wife Ravina.  Along with the couple, their respective parents were also ecstatic with joy at the arrival of the little one. By the time the child was barely 3 days old, the grandparents were already talking about what the little girl would be when she grows up. Rakesh’s parents wanted their granddaughter to be a doctor, Ravina’s father wanted her to be a lawyer, while her mother wanted the child to be a fashion designer.

Rakesh was getting a little weary of all these discussions. Several thoughts began to play in his mind. In a time span of 20 years, his daughter will be ready for college. They would need to plan adequately for her future. He shared his thoughts with his wife, who was already thinking of putting aside some money into fixed deposits. Rakesh was more inclined towards mutual funds. Like any other well-settled young man, he wanted to gain from the uptrend in the market. Though he was financially savvy, the couple had a busy life, which left them very little time or interest to manage their investments.

At 32 years of age, Rakesh was working as a mid-level manager in one of the Indian companies. His wife was a teacher in school. The family’s income was sufficient to support their lifestyle. Nonetheless, he would need to plan ahead to provide for their child’s future aspirations, while also planning for any contingency. The question that arose before them was what would be an appropriate solution to address their financial needs in the long future, say after 20 – 25 years.

With a steady income in hand, Rakesh can afford to invest regularly, and though he wants his money to grow, but he does not have the time to track or move his investments on a regular basis. He plans to stay invested for a long term (say 20 years or more). Keeping in view, his needs and his long term investment, Rakesh deliberated over some plans and finally decided to go for Edelweiss Tokio Life – Wealth Ultima.

Let’s look briefly at the product, and then understand his reasons for selecting the plan over other instruments.

Edelweiss Tokio Life – Wealth Ultima

Edelweiss Tokio Life – Wealth Ultima is a New-age ULIP designed to help people accumulate, preserve and utilise their wealth as per their needs. It is a systematic ULIP plan that enables people to protect themselves against the uncertainties of life and create long-term wealth.

In the case of unfortunate demise of the Policyholder, the beneficiary receives a lump sum amount. On survival of life insured, fund value is payable at the end of policy term. The policyholder can receive the maturity proceeds in a lump sum or in instalments. Please note that the investment return is linked to market performance.

Why should I invest in a ULIP?

Investment discipline

A Systematic Monthly Investment plan not only safeguards from erratic market movements but also induces investment discipline. Though Mutual funds also offer Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) that require you to habitually invest at regular intervals, but if you do not pay there are no penalties involved. Rakesh knew that in order to avoid the policy from getting lapsed, he would have to pay the premium by the due date.

Flexibility with Systematic transfer and systematic withdrawal option

By transferring the money from equity to debt, Wealth Ultima allows for preserving the gains. Rakesh could also opt for systematic withdrawal that would allow him to receive a certain amount each month to take care of regular expenses at a later stage.    

Tax savings on returns

Though the Unit Linked Insurance Product has a lock-in period of 5 years in which he would not be able to withdraw, the final amount at maturity is tax-free, which would be a big saving for him as well as for the nominee. On the other hand, for Long term/ short term capital gain taxes are applicable for mutual funds.

Cost and transparency

The cost in Wealth Ultima is lesser than most other leading investment avenues. For a policy term of 20 years, the total cost (including mortality charges and service tax) works out to be 1.07%, assuming an annual premium is Rs 1L for a person aged 35 years.  

Besides, the plan has Loyalty, Booster and Guaranteed additions, which reward the insurer for continuously paying premiums, staying invested, enhance the fund value and reduce the total cost.

All the charges, options and benefits are clearly mentioned on the site https://www.edelweisstokio.in/product/planned-future/wealth-ultima.

 

Higher Returns in the Long Term

In the long term (around 20 years or more), ULIPs have the potential to outdo Mutual funds in terms of return. So, for a person like Rakesh, with a long-term horizon, ULIP may be more suited as compared to mutual funds.

Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move. Knowing which move to make comes with insight and knowledge. ~ Allan Rufus

 

This post is written in collaboration with Edelweiss Tokio Life and Blogmint.


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Turkish Mosaic Lamps in Mumbai

Turkish Mosaic Lamps in Mumbai

A new lamp, a piece of art can transform a room. ~ Madonna

This is exactly why I love to collect decoration pieces and wall hangings. Recently, I had been to a furniture exhibition at NSE Ground in Goregaon in Mumbai. Just at the entrance of the exhibition was a stall that had mosaic lamps hanging from the ceiling, with patterns and colours so attractive that it caught the attention of all visitors coming to the exhibition. Beautiful mementoes, figures, ceramics bowls and table trays with floral designs occupied a table, and coloured discs adorned one of the walls.

As I looked at the displays, the arabesque lamps reminded me of Aladdin’s lamp. Those exotic looking multicoloured lamps had deep jewel toned colours. The lamp globes were made of many finely cut, tiny pieces of coloured glass held by brass frames. Soft light emanating from the lamps along with the shadows cast by the lamps created an ambience of romantic intrigue. It almost felt like a genie would appear anytime around the corner! My husband pointed out that the mosaic lamps were Turkish lamps.

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Savor fine dining experience at these five places

Savor fine dining experience at these five places

Fine dining is an occasional treat for most people. ~ Rene Redzepi

Having great food in an exceptional restaurant in the company of our loved ones is an experience that most of us cherish. Last month, I had met up with my college classmates for our silver jubilee alumni meet. It was an out and out fun experience sitting out in sunshine and dining with old classmates at a club resort in Delhi, while recalling the memories of our college days.

 

DLFCityClub

We decided to meet up once each year thereafter in a different city, and so we zeroed in on a few of the finest dining places. Friends, who are now settled in different places suggested their local favourites. So, the list that emerged included some of the finest restaurants in different parts of the world. The top 5 names that came up are as follows.

Woodpecker at Aamby Valley in Maharashtra : Being from Mumbai, I had put forth the name of this stylishly designed world cuisine restaurant, which overlooks a water body, and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Cloud 9, at Grand Hyatt, Shanghai: This was suggested by a batch mate who had flown in all the way from Shanghai for the alumni meet. The restaurant, located on the 87th floor of the magnificent Jinmao Tower in Shanghai offers a great collection of champagnes and sparkling wines, sweet and savory snacks, and a 360 degree view of the city.

The third name that came up was Aqua Shard, near Tower Bridge in central London. While dining you can enjoy the view of London’s riverside cityscape stretching from Tower Bridge to the London Eye.

The other two in the list included Tresind at Dubai,  famous for its “chaat” platter and “dhokla”,  and Pan Asian at ITC Grand Chola in Chennai , known for its spread of Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and  Thai delicacies

Sometimes such indulgences may seem redundant, particularly at times when one is financially stretched. But there’s no reason to constrain yourself if you manage your finances well in a way that allows you for such fine experiences.

One such smart investment method is to opt for a SIP investment plan, which requires you to invest a certain sum of money every month in a mutual fund over a period of time, thus inducing a disciplined approach to investment. Furthermore, if you increase your SIP amount by 5% – 10 % every year, you can amass a substantially higher corpus after 10 years.  Needless to say that one should look at some of the top SIP plans to choose from. Sabse Important Plan by Birla Sun Life is one such SIP mutual fund which can be counted among the best mutual funds for SIP.

By investing regularly, not only do you keep up with the rising inflation, but you also do not have to compromise on your choice of lifestyle and can celebrate happy occasions in the best of the places, with your loved ones.

Dreaming after all is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem

Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 3

Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 3

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Continued from Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 2

Part 1 can be found here : Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 1

Afternoon Safari

The second safari was in the afternoon. The zone allotted for our safari was Kanha. The gate, this time was far off from the resort. It would take about an hour to reach the forest.

We started at 2.30 p.m.  The hot afternoon Sun was radiating its intense fury in the form of oppressive heat. With a scarf and hat on my head and a wet towel over my face, I endured the gruelling heat and the dry hot wind in the open gypsy. Somehow we managed to reach the forest gate.

Inside the forest, it was much more manageable as the shadowy trees absorbed much of the heat. A stray hare or two would suddenly cross the road, and jungle fowl would crow cock – a- doodle –do every now and then.  During the drive, we caught the sight of birds such as the Black drongo, Golden oriole, White-rumped shama, Kingfisher and Indian rollers hovering between the trees.

deer

bird by the lake

 

Barasinga Deer

While passing by one of the meadows, we saw a mixed herd of spotted deer and barasinga (swamp deer). Barasinga, the State animal of Madhya Pradesh is an endangered species and is endemic to Kanha. A full adult male stag has “twelve-tined” antlers, which are shed and regrown every year. The species has restricted food preferences, it feeds only on grass and does not eat leaves, shoots or fruits, and the female of the species gives birth to only one fawn after a gestation period of about nine months. The special biology and ecology of this deer, coupled with external factors may increase the likelihood of the population going extinct. To ensure their survival and safeguard against extinction, the Forest Department has made efforts to translocate them to other reserves as a part of the wildlife conservation effort.

A pair of antlers was lying on the ground. Our guide reiterated that visitors are not allowed to collect or carry anything that belongs to the forest. He showed us some tree trunks with scratch marks that were left by the male tiger, as a means to mark his territory.

We again waited by the side of a water body, which looked more or less like a scene drawn out of a fairy tale. A herd of spotted deer was drinking water from the lake, some egrets and ibis were wading in water, and monkeys were jumping on the trees.  Just by the side, was a flashy peacock crowing hoarsely and spreading its plume in a desperate bid to attract the attention of its mates. The peahens, didn’t seem to be in a mood to oblige though.

Lake

The sight was so captivating that we kept on watching the dynamics of the animals around the lake. Our guide was entrusted with the job of watching out for any signals or forewarning calls of the tiger. When he could hear none, we decided to move on, but not before we had spent more than half an hour by the lake.

In one part of the forest, there were many butterflies. As our jeep moved, the butterflies kept flying alongside, giving us the feel of a continued journey through the fairy land. While traversing through the zone, we stumbled upon a herd of nilgai, bisons, wild boars, and a jackal, and caught a peek of a variety of colourful birds such as the Scarlet minivet, Golden fronted leaf bird, Purple sunbird, and White-rumped vultures.

bison

The driver would habitually slow down at each fire line in the hope of catching a glimpse of the ruler of the jungle. Though sometimes our guide spotted pug marks on the road, however, there was no sighting of the real tiger. At around 5.30 pm, the guide told us that we would soon have to start retreating as we were deep inside the forest and it would take almost 45 minutes to reach the gate. By now, the weather was pleasant and breezy, but the fact that we still did not have a single tiger sighting in our second safari trip left us with pining for the big cat.

 

Tiger Sighting

However we tried to convince ourselves that we had experienced the beauty of the jungle, but we knew that the safari would remain incomplete without a tiger sighting. The exuberant voices of our friends after they had seen the tiger and her cubs, echoed in our ears and a few questions repeatedly popped up during the conversations.

“Have they sighted another big cat today?”

“What will we tell them now?”

We had almost given up the hopes!

Just as the jeep negotiated a curve on the road, the guide told the driver to stop, and he pointed his finger to the side right in front of turn. Lo! There was a tiger right there facing the jeep and walking on the road towards us. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of the elusive creature, who seemed to have appeared out of the blue, at a distance so close.

On seeing the jeep, the tiger deflected towards the bush. The guide instructed the driver to stop and reverse the jeep, so that the tiger would come back on the road. He was right! There she was out on the road, and continued with her majestic walk. How beautifully he understood the psyche of the animal!

In a hushed tone, our guide told us that she was a tigress, with four cubs.  Overwhelmed, and with a mixed feeling of surprise and awe, we watched her stride confidently towards the jeep, as if to claim her right of way in the jungle.

At one point, where there was a turn and the road was wide enough, the jeep stopped and we waited for her to cross over. This was a rare sighting and a lifetime opportunity for us, as we looked on with astonishment at the majestic gait of the Tigress, who, luckily for us, seemed to ignore our presence completely. I thought she might be looking for her cubs.

Brimming with excitement on seeing a tiger in its natural habitat from such close quarters, none of us in the Gypsy wanted to miss the opportunity to click it.

At Kanha

The sighting made my day. The moment is etched in my memory forever.  As we left, we were gloating with delight that no one could have had a better sighting than what we had. Our score with the other group was even or better now. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset on our way out, seeing a sloth bear digging an anthill.

At the gate we eagerly waited for Group 2 to join us, so that we could share our moments of the rare encounter. As we saw them approaching we just couldn’t hold ourselves and rattled out the story.

“We were right behind you at a distance. After you had left, the lady later sat on one side of the curved road calling out to her cubs, who came out one by one from the bushes to cuddle up to the mother. It was like seeing a grand family reunion, of a mother tiger and her five grown up cubs.”

Tiger and cubs
Picture credit: Puneet Madan

Happiness is relative. Our excitement shrunk like a punctured balloon.

Unbelievable as the story sounded, the pictures of the royal family gathering proved that it was true. The score remained uneven, and could not be matched in the next two days. In the forest, I learnt anew that comparison doesn’t help, especially in a jungle sojourn.

We came back to Mumbai with many happy memories of the trip.

—-The End—

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Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 2

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Continued from Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 1

Morning Safari

At 5 AM in the morning, there was a slight nip in the air. We had a cup of tea and were ready to leave for the morning safari. Two jeeps were booked for our group of 8 people, with each jeep accommodating four people, and a driver. As we got into the Gypsy earmarked for us, the attendants handed out blankets to us. The jungle, they said, is cold in the morning.

And, so we set out for our jungle sojourn.

The National park is divided into 4 zones – Kanha, Kisli, Mukki and Sarhi.

It took us around 15 minutes to reach the Mukki Gate. As early as 5.30 AM, there were already 8-10 vehicles lined in front of us. At the gate, a guide from the Forest Department accompanied us on the Gypsy and we entered the Kisli Zone.

As soon as we entered the forest, we could feel the fresh morning breeze. On either of the road were sal and bamboo forests, with an undergrowth of wild grass and thorny bushes. We could hear different bird songs coming from the trees. The guide made sure that we caught a glimpse of a bird called the Racket- tailed drongo, which was flying around from tree to tree, and a pair of owls peering out of a tree hole.

Thereafter, the road diverged and the two jeeps went on different routes, and soon we lost sight of our friends.

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Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 1

Kanha : A jungle safari in the forest of Mowgli- Part 1

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

Summer, they say, is the best season for wildlife sightings. The scorching summer heat dries up the water sources in the forests, affecting the animals and birds. So, these denizens of the forest frequently gather around the waterholes to quench their thirst, after those are refilled by the Forest Department.

 “A good tiger sighting would more than make up for the sweltering heat.

This piece of advice from a trusted friend made us agree to plan for a Jungle Safari to Kanha National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, in the month of April last year. We knew that the trip would require us to brave the soaring mercury levels.

A thrilling sensation of adventure took over as we as we set out for our trip to Raipur from Mumbai. We would soon be heading for the jungle, which provided the inspiration for the tales of Mowgli and Bagheera in Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Enroute_Kanha

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